Friday, September 23, 2016

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

We moved from Richmond to Columbus last summer. And I have to be honest, we spent the whole year looking forward to visiting our friends and neighbors again! One of the many things we didn't get a chance to visit was Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. Everyone on the weekend in Richmond goes either to the beaches or the mountains. The drive is maybe an hour and half away and we just ran out of time.

Ashleigh suggested meeting over Labor Day weekend. We were excited to get the opportunity to go this summer!

So the kids and I hopped in the car on Saturday and made the nine hour drive to Richmond from Columbus. We had a great drive down going through West Virginia (holy hills!) and through the gorgeous mountains. There was zero traffic, which was not what I expected with Labor Day weekend!

Ashley was coming from Lynchburg and I was driving from Richmond to Busch Gardens on Sunday. We planned to meet around 1 pm at the park, but we got to the park around 2 pm.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is an amusement park featuring different European countries, including England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Germany, France and beautiful landscaping.

Traffic was very heavy inside the park. Overall, I would recommend getting to the park earlier, than mid-afternoon.

We had counted on heavy traffic since it was a holiday so we parked in the farthest lot (Scotland) and walked in. We could have ridden trolley, but the lines were pretty long. Ashleigh and her neighbors who were also there did the same thing. There were no lines at the entrance and we zipped on in.

We all met in Sesame Street Forest and the kids were so excited to hug and see each other. There were long lines (to be expected) and Ashleigh said it was the most crowded she had ever seen it.

But, we were mentally ready for lots of people and didn't have firm plans. We just wanted to see everyone and enjoy the rides, food and beautiful landscaping! Below are some of our tips for visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Tips for Visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg 

  • Let each kid pick out one attraction beforehand so that you know each one gets to do something they enjoy. Ryder wanted to see a character, Sophie wanted to ride the train or boat and Ava wanted to ride the coasters. 
  • Try the cotton candy (lines can be long), it's a great deal since they stuff the bag
  • Try to arrive early if your schedule allows it. 
  • Stay for the whole evening! They have awesome shows that let little ones rest before walking back to the entrance. We even had fireworks! 
  • The trolley station has to departure stations. Make sure you are on the right one when departing. They are good about announcing which station you are at. 
  • Busch Gardens offers free tap water. Just ask. 
  • Eat before normal dinner times! The Smokehouse had a very long line around 8. Eat with the early birds.

Mason Morgan falling asleep while the kiddos got cotton candy. 

Kiddo bumper cars. There is a heigh requirement for this -- you have to be under it to ride these cars. Older kids can ride the adult bumper cars. 

Midway through Busch Garden at the Oktoberfest event and in Germany. 
The kids all agreed that the cotton candy was one of their favorite parts of the park. They got to watch it being freshly made. It was so good and it was a whole bag filled to the top. 

I told the kids on Thursday that we were going to Busch Gardens that weekend and they were so excited. This was the entrance to the park. I would recommend wearing comfortable shoes! They did a ton of walking. We only had to carry Ryder at the end of the night. He did so great.

This is the entrance to Busch Gardens -- England. The kids thought the flags were so cool. 

Sophie had so much fun riding all of the rides. 

Ryder is a pretty brave guy! 

This is the Pompeii ride. Most kiddos will ride it, although Sophie said it was a little too scary for her so she stayed with Ashleigh. Ryder rode it with me and he was scared, but had so much fun going down the coaster. We also got soaked by people who paid to spray us with water. It looked like we had just gotten out of the shower!

Ava and Chamberlain were so excited to see each other again. 

At the end of the night we thought it would be fun to get some rest (the kids had been walking all day) and watch "All for One." This was the best idea ever!

Ava loved watching the cast do their stunts, including falling of the top of the ladder to the right of the photo. And Sophie and Ryder loved the action and characters. There were even fireworks. It was not crowded and there was plenty of seating. 

The entrance to the parking lots 

Walking in from the Scotland parking lot 

Ready for some fun! 

Our road trip to Williamsburg 

Foard and Mason Morgan

Soaked after our ride, but we had a blast! We also saw the animals and took the train ride around the park with our old neighbors from Salisbury. 

Ryder and his favorite--meeting Cookie Monster! 
We bumped into our neighbors from Salisbury and got to see James and his parents. We loved seeing them there! We were the last ones to ride the train that night. They ended the trains around 8 pm. The trains go through all of the countries in the park.

Disclosure: I was given free tickets to Busch Gardens, however views and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why volunteering can help you become more motivated to race

So, last week I was on Facebook and noticed that Emerald City Half Marathon needed volunteers.

Known as a flat and fast race with high temperatures, I loved running this race. In fact, it was my very first road race in 2011. Some say it's hot, but the temps are better than the 28 degrees we had with the Richmond Half in 2014. Too cold!
My first road race with Ava + Sophie 2011
I had planned on running the half, but life and kiddos + me being sick for the month of July (I kid you not) totally derailed my plans. However, I read that you got a free race entry and since I would rather buy running clothes than pay for race fees, I decided to give it a shot.

I signed up and emailed Ellen who suggested doing the medal station. So, I sent an email to the M3S volunteer email. They were awesome and sent back a reply within 30 minutes!

On race day I woke up at 5 am (6 am volunteer check-in time) and got ready and then headed over to the race. The Emerald City Half was right in my city and I was going the opposite way of traffic so I had no problems getting to the start.

Even at 6:10 am, there were so many people arriving for the 7 am start! I was floored since I usually arrive just in time. I think I may try to show up earlier for the pre-race vibe!: )

Emerald City Medal station
I checked in with the volunteer tent, got my t-shirt and walked over to the medal station. At the medal station, I met the sweetest lady, Alyssia?, and we unwrapped medals and arranged them on the tables for the next hour. Before volunteering, I was a little nervous because I did not know anyone. But, everyone was so nice and fun to chat with. The local running community is awesome!

As the race began and runners moved up to the start and through the pace groups, we cheered for the runners. There were so many (4,000) and there were so many fit runners! Maybe just because it was hot, but it really motivated me!

75 degrees and pre-race photo 

Waiting for the last participants to cross the line. We cheered for the very last racer, which I have to say showed me that just getting out there and doing your best is awesome! 

The racers above were the RWB racers who ran up and back the course numerous times supporting civilians and veterans involved in race.

The day heated up as the winner of the quarter finished (a woman!) and then the rest of the quarter runners started arriving back. We lined up with the medals on our arms and handed them out to finishers. We got to give a sweet little runner who was only six-years-old a medal.

The great thing was that there were so many volunteers we were jokingly fighting to give them away. One of my favorite things was giving medals to my friends who were crossing the finish line!

Racers arrived and then the bell curve of most racers finishing the quarter and the fast half marathoners arriving started. We were there for the fastest and the last--the balloon group who rounds up the last walkers of the race.

At the end there was maybe a 45-minute window where we were talking and laughing at the finish for the last participants with the other volunteers (some of the Columbus MRTTers). We moved up to the front with water and medals and cheered for the racers.

All in all, I had so much fun and met so many awesome runners. And the race crew from M3S were helpful, fun and very inclusive. I def. recommend volunteering at your next local race. You get bagels, bananas and a great t-shirt!: )

I plan to run the Ohio State Four-Miler with the race code.

So get out there and volunteer at your next local race!

I def. feel the itch to run and race now that I watched so many awesome runners crush their goals in very hot temperatures.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Red, White and Blue Olympic Spirit

July 4th with my girls, Sophie and Ava + Red+White+Blue 

We have been watching loads of Olympics. Some of our favorites are the track and field, swimming and of course gymnastics! Both men and women did an amazing job.

Their form, tumbles and routines were exciting to watch this summer.

Ava and her gymnastic friends watching Gabby, who trains at their gym and Team USA

Go Gabby! We loved cheering for Gabby and think she is just about the best role model. She is so kind to the little gymnasts that train at the gym.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back to school

Sophie's cubby in 2nd grade. She is #20!  
Mrs. Argo and Sophie, 2nd grade 

Ava and Ms. Marciso 

Ava, 4th grade! 

Sophie, 2nd grade 

Our first day of school this month was wet and rainy. The girls were so excited to go to school that they were up bright and early at 6:30 am. We had some yummy blueberry muffins + milk and then walked to the bus. The girls are extra pumped because they have the bus stop at our house this year.

Whahoo! We had a great day!